An undercover police officer said he feared he was going to be stabbed to death when he locked eyes with the Streatham terrorist Sudesh Amman in the seconds before he opened fire at close range.
The officer, known only as BX75 to protect his identity, said he also feared 20-year-old Amman would continue his rampage on members of the public in a busy shop on Streatham High Road, just before he shot at the knife-wielding suspect.
The armed policeman, one of nine covert surveillance officers watching Amman’s movements on February 2 2020, the day he struck, said he “locked eyes” with the suspect as Amman turned to charge at police chasing him up the street.
BX75 told the inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice: “I saw him, he saw me – I am 100% confident we locked eyes.
“It was my immediate assessment I was making my way as fast as possible towards him, him towards me, the point of impact was very, very soon.”
Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, asked: “What did you think?”
BX75 replied: “I thought he was going to stab me – and kill me. Certainly seriously injure me.”
BX75 said he fired one shot at Amman, near Lidl, but Amman carried on past him.
The inquest previously heard that shot struck the shop window and did not hit the suspect.
BX75 said he gave chase and stopped when Amman turned around and faced him and a colleague.
He said: “Things did slow down. Mr Amman stopped and faced us again – he seemed to be fixated on me.
“We locked eyes, sort of looked at each other.
“The door to Boots behind him was opening and closing.
“He was looking past me over my shoulders, looking to my left, looking to my right, rocking forward as well.
“He made a forward motion, the knife was held shoulder height, brandishing it.”
BX75 said he fired two further shots.
He said: “(I thought) that he was going to stab me, attack my colleague, attack anyone who came out of Boots who didn’t know what was going on outside, or turn and go into Boots.
“I was convinced he was making a decision there and then who to attack next.”
He added: “He was so close to me that I was in immediate fear of my life. I fired a shot in his chest area.
“He was moving towards me and to the side. He was in my immediate personal space.
“His action was always going to beat my reaction, if I let him beat my next move.
“Then a colleague fired a shot. Mr Amman remained standing, I saw no visible reaction from him, nothing at all, the threat was still there.
“So I fired a second shot.”
Amman then fell to the ground where he was later pronounced dead.
Inquest jurors were told BX75 and his colleague BX87 had barely a second to react as Amman turned and charged towards the officers with his knife held out towards them.
Footage from the scene captured him sprinting along Streatham High Road with a knife he had stolen from Low Price Store, stabbing a man and a woman as he went, with the two officers giving chase.
He turned to confront the officers outside Boots a minute later where he was shot in the neck and abdomen.
The officers fired six shots between them, with two striking Amman.
Amman had only been released from Belmarsh prison 10 days earlier after serving part of his 40-month sentence for terror offences, despite pleas from police and MI5 to detain him for longer over concerns he remained a danger to the public.
The inquest previously heard how Amman was deemed to be “one of the most dangerous individuals” that police and MI5 teams had investigated.
There was also intelligence that he maintained an extremist mindset, wanted to carry out a knife attack in the future and pledged allegiance to the leader of so-called Islamic State.
Amman, raised in Coventry and Birmingham before moving to Harrow in north-west London, and who was of Sri Lankan descent, spent his short time after being released from custody living in a bail hostel in Streatham, during which time undercover police teams monitoring him remarked on his “concerning” behaviour.
He was seen buying four small bottles of Irn Bru, some parcel tape and kitchen foil from a nearby Poundland on January 31.
It prompted police to call an emergency meeting at which it was decided to ramp up security rather than arrest him amid concerns he might use the materials to fashion a suicide belt.
Amman struck two days later and was found wearing a “crude” explosive device replica, made out of the items he bought at Poundland.
Second officer: ‘I saw the blade of the knife again and I saw him plunge it into her upper back’
A second officer who shot at Sudesh Amman told his inquest he was 15-20 metres away from the entrance to the Low Price Store on Streatham High Road where Amman stole his weapon when he heard a “commotion” inside.
The officer, known only as BX87 to protect his identity, giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice, said: “I immediately saw a really large knife in his right hand which he had outstretched in front of him.
“I would describe it as a carving-type knife, the blade was 15-20cm long.
“My immediate reaction was to start chasing after Mr Amman.
“For a split second I thought it was a case of shoplifting or something similar to that.”
BX87 said he then saw Amman “plunge” the knife into a woman’s back.
He said: “I saw the knife. He approached a lady wearing a bright pink jacket.
“I saw the blade of the knife again and I saw him plunge it into her upper back.
“I was sprinting and I was still 15-20m away.”
He said he thought Amman inflicted a “fatal” injury on the woman, who survived the attack.
BX87 said Amman “seemed to be running in between pedestrians rather than the line of least resistance”.
He told the inquest: “It was my perception he was stabbing everyone he was close enough to as he ran.”
Jonathan Hough QC asked: “What did you think was going on?”
BX87 replied: “Immediately after he stabbed the lady I heard him shout really clearly ‘Allahu Akbar’.
“It was at this point it dawned on me it was a terror attack and he was looking to attack numerous people.”
The undercover police officer said he shouted at Amman to stop, but he did not.
He then came face to face with Amman when the suspect turned around to face BX87 and his colleague BX75.
BX87 said: “Mr Amman stopped, he turned around, and as he did my momentum carried me forwards towards him.
“My focus went straight in towards the knife.”
BX87 said he closed the gap between himself and Amman to around five metres, and pulled his Glock pistol out.
The witness, giving evidence screened from the press and public, appeared to break down as he described his final confrontation with Amman.
Recalling the incident, BX87 said: “The blade was pointing towards me.
“As I tried to slow myself my vision almost was like a cartoon – the blade of the knife almost doubled in size.
“It was a strange feeling. His body was forward. It was pretty clear to me he was intent on attacking me or further members of the public.
“I continued shouting ‘Armed police, drop the knife’.”
His voice wavering slightly, he added: “I saw Mr Amman take a number of paces towards me, closing the gap further.
“It really dawned on me at this point that I was going to get stabbed.”
The witness then asked for a break. The inquest continues.